Running the risk of sounding like a stuck record, tomorrow is the day I go home and (God willing) tell my mother about my vocation. Eek! Honestly, I'm terrified (any prayers you've got going, please send my way!). I mean there's a part of me thinking it could go well but of course there's that other part thinking it's going to be terrible. I'm praying and praying so I can only trust the Lord will hear me.
Anyway, there's not much more I really have to say until that's done so I will return to the blogosphere soon and let you know what happened.
Since my discernment obviously did not suddenly start when I started this blog, I wanted to go back and tell the story of how I got to this point.
First, the story of my faith. I was not baptised as an infant - my mother is Anglican and my father Catholic so they decided to let me and my sister decide for ourselves what church we would follow. As children, we attended an Anglican church but were sent to Catholic school (it was the only private school). At 8 years old I decided to become a Catholic. Four years later, I was baptised and a year later took my First Communion. I will admit that after that I sort of fell away. We had just moved to England, my parents had separated so I was the only Catholic. At that age I didn't really understand the importance of going to Mass and was really too shy and afraid to go alone, so I didn't go. Another three years later, we moved overseas again. My mother met a Catholic woman at work who, upon discovering I was Catholic, offered to take me to Mass with her. She did so for the next two years until I went to university and a year after that when I was back for the holidays (after that my family returned to England). She was a real blessing to me. I had never been confirmed so she helped me apply for RCIA, came with me to classes and was even my sponsor since my godparents could not be there. I was confirmed at 17. When I came to university, I will admit my faith slipped. The church was very far from me, over an hour to walk and I couldn't afford the bus. The next year when I moved closer I started attending more regularly but struggled with a fear of confession (I have now gotten over it). But over time I started attending regularly again. And that is where I am now.
As far as discernment goes, the desire has been there for many years. I can't remember when it first came but I know I just thought "What? I can't become a nun!" It seemed like such a ridiculous idea. I know when I was in RCIA I actually asked how one became a nun because I didn't have any idea. I suppose now that curiosity then was the first seeds of my vocation. At 16 or so though, I hardly wanted to become a nun. So I pushed it away and forgot about it. Like that'd work! God had other ideas. Later on, the idea came to me again. It still terrified but I tried to bargain with it. "Okay, let's just say I did become a nun, but I'd do some kind of work like teaching, I don't want to be cloistered." We'd visited a cloistered Carmelite community and spoke to one of the nuns there and the idea seemed so alien. I couldn't live that life, I decided, hence my decision I'd join apostolic order. Note that's my decision, at this stage it was all about my terms. After that I said to myself and others "I thought about religious life but I decided it wasn't for me." Again, I decided, it wasn't about what God was calling me to do but what I wanted. Again, not what God had in mind! Looking back on it I can see the calling for cloistered life was there, I just was unwilling to respond to it. But eventually, finally, I opened my heart to God's will and said to Him, "Let not my will be done but Yours. I live only to do your will, I surrender my will to you and place myself entirely in your hands." And there it was, as it always had been, my calling. Finally no fear, no bargaining, no denial, just a deep and undeniable calling. There are nuns and sisters who find their calling in some mystical experience, a heavenly voice literally calling them. For me, the calling was much more internal. It was a feeling of indescribable joy and the simple knowledge that this was what the Lord wanted for me.
That joy and that simple knowledge haven't gone away. My vocation is to be a nun. It's as simple as that. I could have gone on denying it but I know that then my life will be never as fulfilled as it will be when I can finally become a nun. I think about entering as a postulant, and then becoming a novice and receiving a habit and my new name and eventually taking my solemn vows and I can't wait.
So my resolution to stop buying things in the church store failed miserably. Today's purchase was a book called 'Advent and Christmas - Wisdom from Saint Benedict'. I was looking for something for the season and I spotted it and immediately thought "that's perfect!". I hope to be a Benedictine so I figured what could be better?
Right now, I feel in a bit of a rut. My next step is to tell my family. I'd do it today if I could but over the phone really isn't the best time to break it. I'm going home on Thursday and conveniently my sister is out at life drawing class that evening so I'll have some time alone with my mother where I can talk to her about it. Honestly, I'm petrified. My head is going through all the possible reactions, from horror to disbelief to anger to tears. But at the same time I've reached this stage where I'm desperate to talk about it, to share my vocation and the joy it brings me.
Anyway. Enough about that. I've been looking at various resources and videos online about vocations and discernment and I just got this sense of awe at how wonderful the calling is. I'm not saying any vocation is superior to another, each vocation is beautiful and unique and a way to serve the Lord. But religious vocations are in the end much fewer than marriage vocations. I realised that they are rarer and I was just filled with feeling of enormous blessing. The Lord is calling me - weak, sinful, imperfect me! It's just , wow. Of all the people on this earth, people surely much worthier than I am, and yet I am called. I can't even describe properly how truly magnificent it is.
I was watching a particularly great video on YouTube called "The Beauty of Being a Young Nun". It's only two minutes long but I was really struck by the way she speaks. I especially love when Sr. Allison talks about being "a mother of souls", it's incredibly beautiful and striking and it really resonated with me and helped me understand my own desire for motherhood. In a cloister the main work is of course to pray, and to pray for others. It reminds me of a story I once read concerning St. Thérèse. When very ill, she was advised by a nurse to take a 15 minute walk each day. She found this exercise very difficult and to no effect and another sister, seeing her pain, urged her to rest. The saint replied, "Well, I am walking for a missionary. I think that over there, far away, one of them is perhaps exhausted in his apostolic endeavours, and, to lessen his fatigue, I offer mine to God." I think this is a wonderful example of exactly what Sr. Allison says.
So there it is, weak, sinful, imperfect me, called to become a bride of Christ and a mother of souls. Who would have guessed?
I started this blog almost two weeks ago. You'd think that wasn't too long ago but a lot has changed since then. Two weeks ago was the first time I'd ever told anyone about my discernment. One of my first posts was talking about how I couldn't talk to anyone about my discernment.
My biggest concern was always my family. It's just me, my mother and my sister. My mother is a non-practicing Anglican, my sister is somewhat atheist/agnostic. My mother is generally supportive of my faith but also tends to be funny about me being 'overly' religious. My sister is the same and tends to joke about my faith. Whether they are just teasing or this shows an underlying discomfort with my beliefs, I don't really know. Either way, it leads to my being sincerely concerned about how they will feel about my vocation.
I know it will not be an easy thing for them to hear. My mother wants grandchildren, I know that the things she will be wanting for my life are marriage and children and a career - just as most mothers would. She will also be upset about not being able to see me often. Even more fundamentally, I don't think she will understand the concept of this being a calling rather than just a 'I just randomly decided to become a nun'. My sister won't understand either, she'll probably just joke and laugh and not take it seriously.
So naturally I've been pretty terrified about telling them. I know I need to soon though - with my change in after-university plans they'll have questions about why and what I plan on doing now. I can't just evade those kinds of questions forever. I also want to visit Tyburn Convent soon, perhaps from home rather than from university since it's closer. So I'd have to explain that as well. And I've also found that I want to tell them. I want to share my discernment with them, to make it easier for them and because I want them to be a part of my journey. I want them to visit the community so I can share it with them.
I'm visiting home on Thursday so perhaps I will find an opportunity over that time to have the discussion with my mother. I want to discuss it privately with her first before we start talking about it with my sister and the rest of my more extended family. I'm terrified still but I feel like the Lord is giving me the strength and motivation to do this for a reason. I've always been afraid of the judgement of others so maybe this is a lesson in just embracing my fear and getting on with it anyway.
I may not be American but since it is Thanksgiving I thought I'd do a post about things I'm thankful for.
I'm thankful for my family. You may not get to choose your family but I wouldn't change them for the world.
I'm thankful for my friends. There are always trying times but I know they are always there for me.
I'm thankful for my faith. It has bought so much joy and love into my life, it has completely transformed me for the better.
I'm thankful for my vocation. I feel so blessed to be called to consecrated life.
I could go on but there are just so many things in life to be thankful for. Perhaps we could all do with reminding ourselves more often of the wonderful blessings we have.
"And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful." [Colossians 3:15]
I feel like I'm at a stage where I'm stuck. I know what I am called to, what I want to do. But U'm still unable to actually do anything about it. I don't have the funds to visit any communities until the new year. Even if I could visit a community right now, I still have to finish university and obviously that's not until June of next year. And then after that I have to pay of my student loans - admittedly my loans aren't as bad as they could be because my mother has paid for half but it's still a debt I have to pay off.
It's not that I regret going to university, I think it was an important experience and at 18 I wouldn't have been ready to enter religious life. I have regrets about my time, I'll admit that, but in the end I know that I needed the time to grow up. And of course if I do not enter religious life then I will need my degree. But I do feel that I'm now stuck with this debt that will be an obstacle to me entering religious life until I can pay it off. Although like I said I don't regret going to university, it's still frustrating that it has become an obstacle to my vocation. And who knows how long it might take for me to pay the debt. I know that if I am truly called then it won't go away but I just hate that it has to be postponed because of my education.
I do realise these concerns are getting ahead of myself - I haven't even visited a community yet! But that is my next step and I just get this feeling that I'll find a community that I love and that thinks I would fit there but then not being able to actually enter for what could be a significant period of time. So often now in my daily life I find myself craving what I know I could have in religious life. Even in little things, I find this desperate desire to live that life. Maybe this is God teaching me to be patient, that I can't have everything straight away and some things have to be worked towards. I suppose this is true for religious life, I would spend almost six years there before I took solemn vows, so I guess I have to try and treat this period in the same way.
I was thinking about Tyburn Convent today and their devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. As I said in my previous post, that's a big part of their appeal to me. I've been going to Adoration a lot recently and they have a perpetual Adoration which is awesome.
Anyway, Adoration is tomorrow in my church so as usual I'll be heading down for Daily Mass and then Adoration. But tomorrow will be my first go with my new Eucharistic Adoration prayer book. A whole little book of prayers I can use, I could be there all day!
On a related note, I need to stop going to my church store. I want to buy everything in sight. So far I've bought a little standing crucifix, a general prayer book, a Jesus the Good Shepard prayer card, a Saint Benedict prayer card, the Eucharistic Adoration prayer book and a little statue of the Blessed Mother. In my defence, most of my religious decorations are candles and I live in rented accommodation now so candles aren't allowed. Hence my need for new things! But I really need to stop now before I go broke. The joys of being a student.
In my last post, I talked about having found a second order I was interested in, and placating my fears of being rejected by an order. Never would have guessed it, I've found another one! In case you're curious, these are the orders I'm interested it:
St. Cecilia's has been my first choice, the Monastery of the Visitation was the one I posted about the other day. Yesterday, I discovered Tyburn Convent. At the moment I'm looking mostly at Tyburn Convent and St. Cecilia's Abbey because I feel drawn more to Benedictine orders. I've been reading the Rule of Saint Benedict and at this point I'm feeling a definite pull towards that particular group.
My plan is to visit St. Cecilia's after Christmas. It's not far from where I live but I don't have the money at the moment to get there so if I wait until next term then my next loan will have come through and I'll have some time off between my exam and when classes start again. I thought that would be the perfect time, I won't have much work to do and I won't be worried about classes or anything.
I also want to visit Tyburn Convent, though I'm not sure when I'd do that. It's not too difficult to get to, either from university or from home. Again though, it'll have to wait until next year before I can do that. One of the things I really like about it is they have a particular dedication to the Blessed Sacrament and have Perpetual Adoration. I can't seem to get the vocations section of their website to work on my laptop (the occasional peril of having a Mac) but they have a contact section where you can request information about vocations so I sent a request.
I'm not sure about the Monastery of the Visitation. Of the orders I've looked at it's one of the ones I like the most and the only non-Benedictine one I feel at all drawn to really. Visiting it any time soon would be a lot trickier than the others because it's in the middle of nowhere and I can't drive yet and the nearest train station is several miles away. They also don't have vocation information on their website so I may contact them about that, just so I'm at least informed if I do choose to visit at a later point.
There's so much to organise but I can't even get started because I don't have my exam timetable yet. And it's it little too far in advance! I guess it's just frustrating because I'm desperate to start discerning with an order but I obviously need to visit them and I can't just yet. I need to learn to be more frugal!
One of my big fears I've had in discernment is being rejected.
I've been researching orders and started to narrow down orders I was drawn to. But only one order really peaked my interest, I felt really drawn to that particular order. It's a Benedictine monastery, conveniently not too far from where I live at the moment. I've been listening to their Gregorian Chants from their website and it's just so beautiful. I feel so drawn to that order and though there are other orders I was interested in I didn't feel the same immediate connection to it in the same way I did with this one. Because I felt drawn mostly to that order, I developed this fear that the community would reject me and then I'd be stuck. I supposed I might feel differently once I've visited the community but I had this horrible fear that I'd fall in love with it even more and then they'd say no and I'd just be completely devastated. That worried more than any of the other things I've been thinking about.
Yesterday I was looking through my normal sites and found a reference to an order I'd never heard of before. I don't know why, perhaps it was that I hadn't heard of it in my research and was curious. I found a branch of the order in the UK and though their website didn't actually reference joining the community or anything like that it's become my second choice. I'll still visit it, I want to make sure I've visited more than just the one order - unless of course my first choice is so amazing that I can't bear the thought of being anywhere else! So I'm feeling a lot more relaxed now, I'm not feeling quite so panicky about the thought of being rejected by my preferred order anymore.
On a separate note, I've been developing my devotion to the Blessed Mother recently. I bought a little statue of the Blessed Mother to put in my room (it's right next to my bed) and there is a little chapel to her in my church and I've been going there to pray recently. I can spend an hour there, first with my prayer booklet and reading all the prayers to Our Lady there and then just talking to her. There's no-one quite like a mother, and we all have the greatest one of all!
This morning I had a meeting with my dissertation supervisor, which was over by half past ten. Now Daily Mass isn't until 12.15 but I went to the church anyway to pray. We have a beautiful chapel to Our Lady so I went and knelt there and prayed every prayer I know to Our Lady (with the help of my lovely little prayer book), including a rosary. I got so engrossed in my prayers that I hardly realised the time passing and before I knew it, it was Mass. Again, my calling was so strong and so powerful I was almost crying, my eyes welling up. The rest of the day I was in this state of joy, thinking 'I'm going to become a nun'.
A few nights ago me and my housemates went to our old housemate's new flat to watch a movie and play a drinking game to it. Clarification: I'm very sneaky. I go along but mix my drinks with so little alcohol I might as well be drinking just cola. And nobody notices. Anyway. I love this movie and we've played the game before and I've always loved it. But this time it left me cold. It wasn't that it was an unenjoyable night, it was just that I got this sense that there must be something more than this, this can't be all there is in life. Things that my friends enjoyed and laughed about didn't move me at all. Things that I once enjoyed seemed empty. All I could think about was consecrated life and I desperately desired to be there instead of where I was.
I still feel that way. There is still an emptiness to what the world is offering me. But then today I had an evening in with my housemates. They're lovely people and I care about them a lot, though I do see we want different things in life and care about different things. But we had a really nice evening in, we watched a movie and one has just bought the game Skyrim and we were watching him play that. It was a really nice evening, just really relaxed and it made me realise that even though there are times when the world just leaves me cold, there are also moments like that, those are the ones I feel sad about when I think about giving them up. I know that if my calling is truly to religious life and I entrust myself to God then it will be wonderful and I know that the blessings of that life would far outweigh what I would be sacrificing. It's difficult, I feel so drawn and so sure of my vocation but at the same time I do feel a sorrow for the life I would be giving up.
So I intended to get up early and go to 10AM Mass this morning. 10AM and I'm sitting in bed. Oops. 10AM may not seem early but it takes half an hour to walk to the church and then I like to have at least 15 minutes to pray before Mass so I usually leave like an hour before Mass. Alas, I will just have to go at 12PM as usual.
Last night was one of the times I feel really scared. There's a lot to give up and even though I feel like I'm almost certain, there are times when I just look at what I'm doing and think 'I won't have this any more'. I look at my make-up, my nail polishes, my hair products and realise I'll be giving all those things up. They may not be essentials but I still have them and use them. But then discerning is helping me realise how many superfluous possessions I have. In my head part of me is going through my things and deciding what to do with them. A lot of it will probably be given to my sister, the things she or anyone else in my family then don't want given to charity.
Then I wonder about the things I would be allowed to take. It's the sort of thing I'll ask when I visit but until then I'm wondering. I'd hope I could take my religious things, things like my rosaries (one from my father and one from RCIA) and my Bible (given in RCIA) and my cross (a confirmation gift). My copy of The Imitation of Christ, another confirmation gift. A little crucifix I keep on my mantelpiece, a tile I bought in Rome that says 'Veni Sancte Spiritus'.
Right now I feel really positive about it. But there are times when I'm sad and scared. One of the things I keep reminding myself is that it's not like I'd enter the abbey and then that was it, I wouldn't take solemn vows for at least five years. So there would be plenty of time to figure out if it wasn't right for me.
Until yesterday I had never told another soul about my discernment. I had gone to Church for the daily Mass and spent some time in Adoration both before and after Mass. I was praying for my discernment and during the Mass I just had this indescribable feeling that almost bought me to tears and in that moment the call was stronger than it ever has been. In the wake of that, I left after Adoration feeling surer than I ever have.
I cover my head for Mass and Adoration and when I leave the church I always stop in the entrance chamber to take of my scarf and look at the noticeboards. As I was reading the notices a woman came up to change the parish bulletin to next weeks one. We started talking, just generally about the city and the university - she had studied there before it was a university (ex-polytechnic). When she asked me what I was planning on doing after university, for the first time ever my response was "I'm thinking of becoming a nun." As I discussed it with her I realised how much even just talking about it brought me joy. It felt like a light within me and just like during Mass I was almost bought to tears by it. Talking about it I just go so excited and felt so deeply and passionately about it, in a way I've never felt about anything before.
I'd love to be able to talk to my friends and family openly about this but I don't feel I can. My sister would laugh, my mother would be horrified, my friends simply wouldn't understand. Maybe as I become more sure of what my path is I will find the strength to be open to them and resist their criticisms. Until then, to add a more positive note, I've discovered there is a discernment group in my diocese that I'm going to contact and see how that goes. After yesterday, I'm excited to be able to discuss my discernment with others!
I choose to go by my confirmation name: Emiliana, shortened to Emily. Right now, I'm a 20 year old psychology student. I'm in the last year of my degree and I'm thinking about what to do next. I'm thinking of becoming a nun.
I've felt called to religious life for years, but I always brushed the idea away. I thought "I can't become a nun", it just didn't seem like something that was 'done'. God obviously wasn't happy with that! Later on I started thinking "I'd join an active order if I joined religious life', cloistered life just seemed boring. But again, God had other plans. Now, I'm discerning joining a cloistered community.
This isn't something any one in my life knows about. I don't feel ready to share it with my friends and family yet and I don't think they would understand. When the time is right, I know God will give me strength. For now though, I retreat to the internet. I want this blog to show the journey I am taking, whatever path I end up going down.